Wednesday, September 22, 2010

CAODS at the Civic Theatre

It's a while since Barrowman was the Beast, and now this lavish Disney spin-off is available for the more ambitious amateur groups.
In a fitting finale to CAODS' 90th anniversary year, Ray Jeffery's done a class job on this marathon musical, with its tricky transformations, its smoke and mirrors and its spectacular production numbers. Be Our Guest, of course, a culinary cabaret with Lumiere as Emcee [the excellent Ben Martins with a fruity French accent], but also Human Again, again started off by the candlestick. Sarah Barton gave a pleasingly old-fashioned musical comedy performance as the bookworm Belle, battling with the primeval Gaston [Richard Harrison] as well as the Beast – a touching performance from Gareth Barton, finding emotional depths from within the latex – a better Beast than a beau for Belle, perhaps. Another nuanced character from Trevor Lowman as Belle's father, mad inventor and victim of fate; Jimmy Hooper was a larger-than-life New Yorker LeFou. The Silly Girls were effective too, somewhere between Three Little Maids and the Ugly Sisters. The dancing was superb, from the camp cutlery to the athletic Wolves.
Among the castle staff trapped in household objects I enjoyed the Salt and Pepper, the Rug, Kevin Abrey's conceited Cogsworth, Rachael Brown's bubbly Babette, and especially Diana Baker's Teapot, spout steaming, with her boy Chip in the cup, played with huge confidence on opening night by Noah Miller, with Charlie Hughes confined to the cupboard for some other performances.
Ray Jeffery was assisted by Claire Carr, and the Dance Captain was Sue Buxton.
Patrick Tucker's pit musicians were on splendid form, especially noticeable in Belle's big number, with its Andrew Lloyd Webber aspirations, Is This Home?. The sets looked impressive, especially the moving castle, though they were clearly a challenge to change. Maybe costume, or at least proper blacks [with gloves!], for the hard-pressed crew. The costumes were colourful, clever and just cartoony enough …

Photographs by Christopher Yorke-Edwards


Anonymous said...

I saw this production on Wednesday and have to say that of the Beauty and the Beast productions I have seen this one was well acted and sung by most of the cast, although I felt Mrs Potts voice to be a bit harsh. The show was as colourful as ever, but lacked that certain sparkle that I have seen in other versions, there was no flying, which I have seen before and it works so well, It appeared to be a fairly straight lift in it's characterization of the movie. So while I enjoyed the show, like many amateur productions, there was nothing new to be seen.

Gary Coe said...

I have just watched this production of Beauty and the Beast. The Orchestra had superb balance and the music was at just the right level, so many productions at the civic are swamped by the orchestra but not in this case. The show itself was colourful and bright and as you say the costumes and set were a real positive. There were some lovely performances, most notably Lumiere who was ( for me ) the outstanding performance of the show. I have seen a few of CAODS productions over the years and while they have always been a more traditional amateur society with their productions having that safe old fashioned feel about them, they have attempted to do a modern show and made a reasonable job of it. It was still a safe show never really challenging the cast or straying from what the audience would expect, but it was a fun evening.The Beast was beautifully sung as was Belle although I was never really convinced by the old fashioned musical theatre portrayal. It was nice to see familiar faces from other amateur groups taking centre stage, Belle, the Beast and Gaston who I have seen in Southend and Brentwood in various productions were a vital addition to the Chelmsford cast. A very enjoyable show and a welcome light hearted relief after Chelmsfords previous production a very long winded and very dated Fiddler on the Roof.

John Richardson said...

The First Act was too long .. I began to wonder if it was being performed
without an interval ! This probably not helped by the fact that the musical is 'no
great shakes' .. I kept waiting for a song I even half-knew .. the fact that a mother had to take her child to the loo four times during the act bears this out I suspect.

When I saw the show in New York I was impressed that this was a true musical, performed 'honestly' without any 'over the top' sending up we expect from pantomime. Unfortunately not everyone in the cast understood that this is a very narrow path to tread, akin to a tightrope ! However, this could probably be laid at the feet of director Ray Jeffries who has a tendency to
send things up. His other 'habit' is to overcrowd the stage in the mass chorus numbers, slightly less evident in Beauty and the Beast as the set allowed for 'decoration' on the 'west wing' steps.

I DETEST the whoopers and hollerers for the slightest (and generally unwarranted thing) - if anything it makes me NOT applaud !

Everybody expects lavish sets and costumes - costumes certainly good .. set less so and for me not as magical (apart from the frontcloth that greeted us), though I did like the west wing set with all its practical stairways.

Of the characters I was taken with Beast's performance - a very 'genuine' one. Gareth gave an honest 'representation' of his fairy tale character, which is why he succeeded - you felt sorry for him.

Of the true 'quirky' characters my favourite was Diane, though Ben and Kevin came a very close tied second.

Anonymous said...

I don't really care much for the show as I was brought up on the original, romantic fairy tale, and, as has been mentioned above, the music is far from memorable. However I very much enjoyed the performances and I liked the set. I feel it deserves more than the 2 stars people seem to have awarded it. Certainly the reaction of the audience on the evening I was there suggests that they would have given it at least 4.

Zoe Morgan said...

I have to say that I was a little disappointed in this show but not totally surprised by that disappointment. I have seen a few of Chelmsfords productions over the years, my first was their excellent " Anything Goes " I have seen a few since then but none have managed to live up to that particular production. Beauty and the beast is a lovely story although as mentioned in earlier posts the musical is not that great and not particularly memorable, although the costumes were wonderful and the set was interesting it seemed to suffer from the same lack of pace that some of the other shows I have seen by this group also suffered with. Somehow Chelmsford managed to make Disney a bit dull. There were some lovely moments, Mrs Potts was wonderful, Lumiere was excellent, Beast had a super voice. However the real test for me was that I took my 7 year old to see this show and she was noticeably fidgety by the end of the first act, which seemed to go on for an eternity. I would rate this as a three star show, it let itself down by being a tiny bit panto, having no real pace and being a little old fashioned, but unfortunately that is what I have come to expect from a Chelmsford show.

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